So. 2020. The start of a new decade. That’s just a bit surreal for me. I can remember wondering if 1984 would turn out anything like the novel. The future did turn out a bit like Orwell’s vision — it just took until 2016 or so to get there. It isn’t so much that Big Brother is watching (although, that too), but how our government corrupts and perverts facts and truth.
Good fiction is insightful about the human condition; good science fiction is insightful about our future. Over time, as advertised, the prescient film Idiocracy goes from SF comedy to anthropological documentary. Many others went from fiction to fact. (Fortunately, at least so far, The Terminator has not.)
Suffice to say, this year will seem surreal in more ways than one.
One of my favorite discoveries in life is the Mandelbrot set. Considering it gives me a strong sense of the numinous. I’ve been enthralled by it ever since Fractint, an MS-DOS program that generated fractals. I’ve posted about it a lot here; today I want to take you into the heart of its chaotic behavior.
The Mandelbrot set has a number of properties that make it such a fascinating study: Firstly, it demonstrates chaos theory. Secondly, it demonstrates how complex patterns can arise from simple beginnings. Thirdly, it reveals a problem concerning real numbers. Fourthly, every pixel is a demonstration of Turing’s Halting Problem. It’s also infinitely complex and incredibly beautiful.
Today we’re going to explore the shore of the Mandelbrot lake.
The Thanksgiving holiday we celebrate here in the USA has some unfortunate overtones regarding its colonial origin. Still, the idea of a festival of thanks is an ancient one — thanks for a good harvest or a good hunt. Or, in our case, thanks for helping us not die last winter.
As with Christmas or the Copenhagen interpretation, we tend to take a “shut up and calculate!” approach to the holidays. “Shut up and shop!” in the case of the Winter Solstice, and “Shut up and give thanks!” today.
One thing we can be very thankful about is patterns…
I had thoughts about a second May Mandelbrot post that got a bit deeper into the weeds, but a couple attempts today went nowhere (except the trashcan). But I been having some fun exploring the Mandelbrot with Ultra Fractal, and I thought some pictures might be worth a few words.
Click on any to see bigger versions.
I realized that, if I’m going to do the Mandelbrot in May, I’d better get a move on it. This ties to the main theme of Mind in May only in being about computation — but not about computationalism or consciousness. (Other than in the subjective appreciation of its sheer beauty.)
[click for big]
I’ve heard it called “the most complex” mathematical object, but that’s a hard title to earn, let alone hold. It’s complexity does have attractive and fascinating aspects, though. For most, its visceral visual beauty puts it miles ahead of the cool intellectual poetry of Euler’s Identity (both beauties live on the same block, though).
For me, the cool thing about the Mandelbrot is that it’s a computation that can never be fully computed.
To start the last week of March Mathness, because it’s a Monday, I’m going to go easy on y’all with some light, easy topics. (Maybe I can lull you into paying attention for the major topic of the month: matrix rotation.)
It has occurred to me that, if I’m talking about math in March, I absolutely must mention one of my all-time favorite mathematical objects, the Mandelbrot. I’ll try to get to that today, but the main topic is a simple something that I ran into while working on my 3D model of the big island of Hawaii.
The question was: How many miles are there per degree of latitude?
Back at the start of March Mathness I promised the math would be “fun” (really!), but anyone would be forgiven for thinking the previous two posts about Special Relativity weren’t all that much “fun.” (I really enjoy stuff like that, so it’s fun for me, but there’s no question it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.)
Trying to reach for something a bit lighter and potentially more appealing as the promised “fun,” I present, for your dining and dancing pleasure, a trio of number games that anyone can play and which might just tug at the corners of your enjoyment.
We can start with 277777788888899 (and why it’s special).
Tick-Tock, goes the clock…
Last time, in the Determined Thoughts post, I talked about physical determinism, which is the idea that the universe is a machine — like a clock — that is ticking off the minutes of existence. The famous French mathematician, Pierre-Simon Laplace (the “French Newton”), was the first (in 1814) to articulate the idea of causal determinism.
We now know that quantum mechanics makes it impossible to know both the position and motion of particles, so Laplace’s Demon isn’t possible at the sub-atomic level. (It might be possible at the classical or macro level — that’s an open question.) Sometimes the issue of chaos theory is proposed as a counter-argument to determinism, so I thought I’d cover what chaos theory is and how it might apply.
If you want to skip to the punchline, the answer is it doesn’t apply at all.